Entrepreneurship: Our Founder's Journey

February 5, 2019
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According to Hugo, the key to entrepreneurial success is combination of careful planning, focused objectives and a decent dose of…luck!

Here is an interview with the founder of Camellia Sinensis tea house on the original launch of the company.

Tell us how it all started? Was founding a company your dream?

H : From planning my paper route when I was 10 to begging manager of the corner store to give me more responsibilities when I was 16, I always felt I was born to be an entrepreneur. I had been dreaming of launching a café-bar with a difference, so I travelled to Europe at 23 to do my market research. Whilst in Prague, I picked up the taste for tea as there were many places serving it with a blend of Asian tradition and an extra touch of “cool” . As I worked on my business plan I realized that we had nothing remotely like this in Montreal. That’s when I realized: it was going to be a tea house and not a coffee shop!

You must have have ran into quite a few challenges when you started out?

H : Yes. I actually underestimated the budget to launch this endeavour, so I had to worked 112h a week for the first year to compensate. It wasn’t easy for my friends, family and more importantly the bank to visualize the concept I had in mind.

Do you have any tips for the young entrepreneurs out there?

H : Firstly, is that you can’t do it alone. Find people around you that you trust and that can help you with certain tasks. Trust them and delegate. There are plenty of people and business services that will help if you ask.

Secondly, I would suggest to focus on one thing as launching a new business is very time consuming. Make sure that the other aspects of your life allow you to dedicate so much energy to this adventure.

Last November marked the 20th anniversary of Camellia Sinensis. How would you explain the continued success of this company?

H : Personal experience has lead me to believe that it is a mixture of three things:

1. A realistic plan. It’s important to plan but we also need to be flexible in order to see other opportunities that can help us improve our idea. I have never found it realistic to plan 3 or 5 years ahead. I plan the year and adapt with the flow to guide my next plan. Depending on your vision, you may want to observe your company's evolution. Treat it as if it were a person with its own goals and aspirations.

2. Keep focused. Choose and define a mission, objectives and a target market. Remember, you won’t be able to please everyone and aim concentrate on what you do best.

3. Be on the lookout for Lady Luck ! After all, the whole idea of Camellia Sinensis came to me after working up the nerve to ask a girl out in Prague. She fortunately said yes and brought me to a hidden Tea house and that’s when everything became clear. Who knows what would’ve happened had I not met her. Being open and spontaneous to the benefits of chance can lead to wonderful things.

Camellia Sinensis isn’t only Hugo, you also have 3 partners. What is your secret ?

H : Quite simply: we get along really well. Having the same overall vision and our belief in the balance between personal and professional life is what has kept us together so long. Partnering up was very organic and seamless but having the same values is the glue that keeps it together. Starting out we all worked together in the store and teahouse as things developed we were advised to take on specific roles and to structure the company as it grew. It worked out for the best because we each had our own strengths and interests. Francois took marketing, Jasmin took operations and eventually Kevin joined in 2004, adding a wealth of experience after years in the tea market.

Any wishes for the next 20 years of Camellia Sinensis?

H: Definitely not a massive worldwide expansion. I’d rather focus on helping like-minded entrepreneurs to change the way we do business and spread the wealth. Running a healthy business can mean many things and measured in different ways. For us it’s measured in the quality of how we balance our personal lives.

Actually, I’ll take this opportunity to sincerely thank all our clients. Without their loyalty and support, Camellia Sinensis would not be what it is today. Thank you everybody!

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